Winegrape Grower Earns SIP Certification

Dana Merrill, Winegrape Grower Earns SIP Certification

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Dana Merrill is a seventh-generation farmer of an eighth-generation Californian farming family and president of Mesa Vineyard Management, a premium vineyard management service on the Central Coast. A graduate from Cal Poly with an Agriculture Business degree, He is a member of the Merrill Family Estates, an estate that produces premium winegrapes for its Pomar Junction Winery, and he’s extremely involved with the Paso Robles Wine Community.

Recently, his winegrape growing operation earned the Sustainability In Practice (SIP) certification.

“We worked very hard to attain this certification,” Merrill said. “Most of the changes were positive moves. It’s not meant to be a penalizing certification, but there are specific restrictions. For example, we don’t use any Class I restricted materials. If the US Environmental Protection Agency has commented about a substance, ‘Hey, that is Class I. It may be legal, but as an herbicide, it has a tendency to leach into the groundwater,’ then the SIP system won’t allow it. There are times when I’ve said, ‘Boy, I wish I could use a certain material,’ but there are some I simply cannot use in order to qualify for the certification.”SIP Certified

Merrill continues, “The SIP also takes into account how you treat your labor. For example, more ‘points’ are awarded if you offer a benefit program, continuing education support, a retirement program, or health insurance. These days, everybody has to offer health insurance, but points are awarded for that, even though some of us have offered it for over 20 years. Points are also earned for best-practice management whether it is fertility management, soil probes, or having water meters on all your wells and using the information to manage how you irrigate. The idea is to encourage folks to do more and raise the bar.”

“Being SIP-certified helps with marketing too,” noted Merrill. “If you get the SIP seal on a bottle of wine, a consumer can go be assured of the excellent quality of that product.”

“It is marketing in the sense that we are always selling ourselves to the consumer,” Merrill explained. “You know, the consumer may ask, ‘Why should I buy a bottle of SIP wine? Why should I buy California wine?’ I think that branding or labeling conveys a message to customers about what is important to them. Some consumers are very environment-oriented; others are looking primarily for quality. Your label conveys that message. There are customers to whom it is less important, but I see its significance growing. I would say 50% of the people who visit our tasting room find that label on an SIP-certified bottle of wine quite meaningful,” Merrill said.

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Links

Mesa Vineyard Management

http://www.mesavineyard.com/

Sustainability In Practice (SIP)

US Environmental Protection Agency

Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium Builds Relationships

Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium Builds Global Relationships for Collaborative Problem-Solving

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

 

Nearly 200 professionals in the horticultural industry from across the food chain and the value chain, and from Europe and North, Central and South America, gathered this week at the Bayer CropScience Horticulture Symposium in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Attendees were treated to an inspirational mix of lectures, panel discussions, as well as an interactive poster session, all incorporating forward-thinking sustainable practices into contemporary agriculture. Among the crops discussed were tomatoes, citrus, grapes, potatoes, bananas.

Rob Schrick, strategic management lead, Bayer CropScience Horticulture, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, said the event was the company’s second in a series of horticulture symposiums focused on international collaboration and problem-solving. “This is about bringing the best and brightest from across our industry,” said Schrick, “from influencers and universities to industry members like ourselves and the media. It’s about getting these creative minds together and discussing solutions. The solutions may not come from the symposium itself, but the connections that are made—you don’t know what will yield from those relationships.”

Jim Chambers, director of marketing, Bayer CropScience Food Production, said the Horticulture Symposium was all about sharing information on best management practices. “Bayer is a leader in the crop protection business within the horticultural space around the world, and this is a real opportunity to bring all of us within horticulture across the food chain and the value chain to talk, from the grower, to the processor, and to the consumer. It is a wonderful opportunity to work together to solve some very difficult challenges.”

“And, vivid to all attendees, was that members of the fruit and vegetable industry throughout the Americas have similar challenges to overcome,” noted Chambers. “It was very interesting; the issues that we talk and hear about in the specialty crop states such as California, Florida and Texas, are very much the same issues that people, for example in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, or Central America, are facing. These issues do not go across just states or counties; they reach across the globe in solving these problems,” Chambers said.

Among the speakers were growers, commodity specialists from the industry and academia, and experts on sustainability practices, professionals on Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs), Bayer CropScience specialists and major agricultural association leaders such as Tom Nassif, ceo, Western Growers Association (WGA) and Dana Merrill, president, Mesa Vineyard Management Inc.

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Bayer CropScience, the subgroup of Bayer AG responsible for the agricultural business, is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control. The company offers an outstanding range of products including high value seeds, innovative crop protection solutions based on chemical and biological modes of action as well as an extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture. 

(Photo features Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience – Horticulture strategic management lead)